A little health update
I think I've started a diet at the beginning of January every year since I was 14 so it doesn't sound too groundbreaking. The difference this time around though, is that I'm not trying to lose weight - I'm just trying to get better.
Let's rewind a little bit, back to September 2011, when I was a youthful 21 (sob), had just left uni and was starting out on my career. I lived in a city centre flat with one of my best friends, had been with my lovely Sam for nearly a year and everything was looking pretty rosy. It was around this time that I first started to get some rubbish symptoms - bloating, painful stomach cramps, tiredness and a general dodgy stomach. I was diagnosed almost immediately with IBS, prescribed some Buscopan to help with the pain and sent on my merry way.
The symptoms continued to come and go quite regularly for the next couple of years, but were on the whole fairly manageable. I had a couple of flare ups that were more severe, and my GP dutifully ran some blood tests for the likes of coeliac and Crohn's disease, diabetes and liver and thyroid function. When nothing showed up as unusual, I was told that the diagnosis of IBS was correct and that I just needed to learn how to manage my symptoms. I was advised that stress could trigger flare ups and so worked hard to try and get that in check.
I muddled along for a few more years and just accepted that feeling a bit rotten every now and then was just part of my deal. Then in September last year it got a whole lot worse. I couldn't eat anything without experiencing severe cramps or needing to go to the loo, and I started to experience other symptoms, like eczema and achey joints. I had to cancel numerous plans and I spent a week working away in London hidden away in my hotel room because I felt so crap.
I headed back to see my doc and ended up bursting out crying in her office - by this point I had a mouth full of ulcers, was catching a cold every other week and was struggling to sleep. I was pretty much told that my symptoms were synonomous with IBS and that it was just something I was going to have to learn to cope with. I asked if I could be sent for further testing, but unfortunately nothing else was available on the NHS. I felt like I was at my wits end, and I continued to just feel more and more run down.
So in November I decided to try another alternative and made myself an appointment with a local nutritionist - after my very first appointment I felt so much more hopeful and positive. She explained that diagnosing someone with IBS is like diagnosing someone with a headache - it's just a description of symptoms rather than an explanation of what is wrong. After listening to my symptoms she recommended that I undergo some further testing and we agreed on the CDSA test which I undertook with Genova Diagnostics - it was unpleasant and quite expensive, but I was desperate to find out what was causing me to be so ill.
And just before Christmas I went back to collect my results. I was pretty shocked as the nutritionist took me through them - the test had shown that I had no growth of good bacteria, five different strains of bad bacteria causing infections and a particularly nasty overgrowth of yeast in my gut. On top of that my body has been struggling to breakdown fats and proteins. Not pretty, huh?
My nutritionist was most concerned about the overgrowth of yeast, as this is what has been causing a lot of other symptoms. Unfortunately it's pretty hard to kill off because it likes eating and drinking all the same things as me - carbs, sugar and booze. Hence the strict diet I am now having to follow for the next 8-12 weeks - no sugar (refined or otherwise), no gluten, no dairy, no booze and no caffeine. It sounds pretty impossible on the surface of it, but I have never been more motivated to stick to anything in my whole life - seeing those results down on paper made me realise that my health really needs to a priority for me over anything else. It also made my previous weight loss focus diet attempts seem a little bit futile.
I'll be combining my healthier diet with some probiotics and enzymes to try and help achieve a bit more balance in my poor little tum. Hopefully in a couple of months time I'll be feeling a little bit more myself - the sugar cravings and headaches that I've been having for the past couple of days have proven that my body was definitely far too reliant on the sweet stuff.
SO - if you have any delicious recipes that don't include any of the above, help a girl out and send them my way puh-LEASE?!
Sorry that this post has turned into a bit of a gigantic ramble, but a few fellow IBS sufferers had asked about how I was getting on and I thought this might be useful to a few of you. If anyone wants any more info on the tests I had or whatever please just shout! Maybe I'll check in again in a couple of weeks and give you all a little update?